Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $40 - $50 | Compare prices at 6 resellers
Pros: No-frills, durable, carries well, streamlined, versatile
Cons: No updated features
Best Uses: Multi-pitch rock or ice climbing, day hikes, around town
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
If you only are going to have one small pack, the Black Diamond Bullet is the one. It scored higher overall than any other pack we tested, earning the Bullet our Editors Choice award. It did not rate as the highest in any of the six categories we graded it on, but it was near the top in each.
This great little pack may not be the best for everyone, however. If you want lots of climbing-specific features, check out the Petzl Bug instead. You should consider, though, that the Bug will be on the bulky side for a leader's pack. For a great combination, try the Bullet and Bug in conjunction for longer routes.
If you are a true minimalist and dont mind taking a loss in durability, check out the Cilo Gear 20L worksack, which has 4 L more storage at a lower weight and climbs beautifully. You can also consider the REI Flash 18, which has 2 L more space at a lower weight AND price, but is less of a climbing specific pack. Neither of these packs comes with an external pocket, though, which is one of the nicest features on the Bullet.
This is sure to become your go-to pack. The Bullet will last for years and never let you down. So whats left but to shell out the 50 bucks and get out there?
Check out our full Day pack Review to see how this stacks up against other climbing daypacks.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This is a no-frills workhorse of a backpack that has long been a mainstay of the Black Diamond brand. Its initial design has remained nearly unchanged over the years, which says a lot about the pack.
The Bullet is relatively light, at 13 ounces, and can be packed small when not in use. It distributes a load very nicely and, when packed well, is exceptionally comfortable.
It seems to be just about the perfect size for the essentials while climbing. For a long day itll be totally jammed full, but even in that condition, it is still quite comfortable. It functions well as both a leaders pack and a followers pack. Its durable construction with beefy 1260 denier Ballistic nylon on high-wear areas and lighter 420 denier nylon on low-impact areas will stand up to years of repeated abuse.
The few features this pack has are well thought out and useful, including an external zip pocket and two external gear loops. Neither take away from the streamlined profile; nothing is there to get caught up. The pocket keeps a camera, mini guidebook or topo, and a bar handy for quick access, and a small clip keeps your car keys secure. The gear loops can be nice when swapping gear at a belay, and can also be used to rig up a rope carry system for a long approach. Be imaginative (see photo above for one idea). If you choose not to climb with a waistbelt, then you can bring the belt around the back of the pack and clip it through the loops, keeping it totally out of the way. The Bullet is also the only pack we reviewed that has a clip to keep the tube of your hydration system in place on your shoulder strap, a nice thought.
This pack rates as one of the most versatile, and would function well as a grocery bag, airplane carry on, or school bag. This could easily become your go-to bag for day-to-day life.
The Bullet is the heaviest of the packs without back padding (380 g/13 oz). The Shot, which is padded, actually weighs in just below the Bullet as well (370 g/13 oz). The gear loops are rarely put to use, and if you really wanted to go minimalist, youd cut them altogether. That might shave 10 grams (maybe more) and bring the Bullet down to the same weight as the Black Diamond Shot. The gear loops also limit the length of the external pocket zipper; the Bullet has only a six inch zip while the Shot (which does not have the gear loops) has a seven inch zip.
The six inch opening is too small for most full-size guidebooks, which is a bit of a pain. If you need the guidebook, it has to go inside, where access can be a bear with a full pack. If you are looking for a bigger external pocket size, consider the Petzl Bug or the Mountain Hardwear Crimper. Either of these packs accommodates a full-size guidebook.
The waist belt can restrict movement while climbing, and the only real solution is to clip the belt into the gear loops on the back of the pack. This gets the strap out of your way, but increases your chances of catching your bag on something. The bullet would be helped by using the new removable waist belt system of the Black Diamond Shot.
The main compartment of this pack will begin to unzip itself if the zipper pulls are both located on the top center of the pack. I dont think this is necessarily unique to the Bullet; many of these small packs, when full, are going to put significant pressure on the top center of the zipper. If you have the zipper pulls in the center you are creating a weak point, and the pack will slowly work its way open. You should take care to make sure the zipper pulls are both on one side of the pack in order to prevent this from happening when the pack is fully loaded.
This pack is for you if you want a great climbing pack that can do it all. This pack is equally at home on desert sandstone as it is in the office or grocery store.
Note: If you look at the current Black Diamond listing for this pack, the description will say nothing about its use for rock climbing, billing it instead as solely a hiking daypack. Do not let this deter you from purchasing! Read this review and check out descriptions of the pack elsewhere on the Web for more information.
The bullets $50 pricetag seems fair given the sturdy materials and the versatility of the pack. Unless you specialize in another sport, you wont ever need to buy another pack of the same size.
Black Diamond Shot, $50, 13 oz.
Black Diamond Speed 30, $140, is a reasonably durable, well-featured small alpine pack at a more affordable price.
Black Diamond Speed 40, $160.
If you love the idea of the Bullet in a slightly larger size, check out the Black Diamond Hollowpoint, $70. The Hollowpoint has a similar design and a few more features in a 20L package. We think the size of the Bullet is just right for its designed purpose, but it is easy to imagine needing a bit more space for guiding or for an especially long or cold climb.
— Dan Sandberg
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Most recent review: July 14, 2014
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